Monday, December 14, 2020

Obesity Is Rising in Every Age Group

Just ahead of the holiday festivities, the National Center for Health Statistics has issued a report on trends in obesity by age. Do you think this is just a coincidence? Yes, of course it is. Nevertheless, perhaps a review of the trends will rein in the temptation to overindulge in these final days of a difficult year. 

If obesity were a mystery to be solved, then the trends presented by the NCHS report provide an important clue. The clue is this: it's happening across the board. No age group is immune. Obesity is surging among the young, the middle-aged, and the old. Take a look...

Percent obese by age, 1988–94 to 2017–18
        total       20-39   40-59     60-plus
2017-18          42.4%   40.0%    44.8%     42.8%
2007-08          33.7   30.7    36.2     35.1
1999-00          30.5   26.0    33.5     33.5
1988-94          22.9   17.7    27.9     23.7
Note: Obesity is defined as a body mass index at or above 30.0 kg/m²

The data used to calculate these numbers are collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey doesn't simply ask Americans how much they weigh—those self-reports would fall far short of reality. NHANES quantifies reality by dispersing mobile examination units around the country, from which trained health technicians measure the height and weight of a representative sample of the public. Over the past three decades, the survey's measurements show a doubling in the percentage of Americans who are obese among 20-to-39-year olds, a 61 percent increase among 40-to-59-year-olds and an 81 percent rise among people aged 60 or older. That's a lot of overindulging.

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